Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kai's living the dream life – not only can he walk away from any group date with new friends with benefits, the ladies even agree he's God's gift to high school girls. All of that changes, however, when he reconnects with Riko, a girl he went to elementary school with. Riko won't stand for any of his nonsense, and she won't let him pull it on her friends either. She's a royal pain in Kai's behind—so why does he find himself not wanting to let her go?
Kai may be a ladies man, but he still has a lot to learn about girls. He's gone from king of the class in elementary school to the heartthrob of his high school, but he seems to be suffering from the delusion that only a certain type of female is capable of falling in love. Therefore it totally throws him when he realizes that Riko, who's a bit of a tomboy and a bluestocking, does in fact have a crush – and it isn't on him. That's the impetus for getting this shoujo romance started, and thus far it seems to be a good one, because it relies not only on the basics of the genre (couple falls in love) but also on the fact that Kai has to completely adjust his world view, including how he sees himself.
Kai is the main character of this piece, making it slightly unusual in the shoujo romance genre in that it stars a boy. He prides himself on his ability to get the ladies and has thus far lived his life without the annoying encumbrance of emotions, something everyone involved seems perfectly okay with. That all changes on the day he reconnects with Riko, a girl he met back in the third grade. Riko beats the crap out of him for messing with one of her friends, reinforcing Kai's previously conceived ideas of her as somehow less of a girl because she can beat him up. When he quickly then finds out that she has a crush on someone, his immediate assumption is that it must be him…and when it isn't his world is upended.
In part this is probably because of something Kai himself has managed to forget, or to at least block out. Back when Riko transferred to his school in the third grade, he followed her around poking her until she turned on him and retaliated. Given the tropes of manga, it's not hard to guess that Kai had a crush on Riko back then, something she found annoying or simply didn't understand. When she made him stop, he was humiliated in more ways than one, and he seems to have avoided her as best he can ever since. Riko's reappearance in his life stirs the old conflicting feelings up again, and the realization that she's also grown up since those days makes things very confusing for him, as well as giving her another chance to bruise his ego.
This is not, however, strictly about Kai's ego. Instead the main trajectory of the story in this volume is focused on Kai learning to understand why he's drawn to Riko. Yes, in part it is because he's miffed that she's crushing on someone else, but it's also more that he can't understand what's wrong with him. Other girls find him irresistible enough that there's plenty of implication that he's been pretty active sexually, so Riko's apparent indifference brings him right back to her turning the tables on him in elementary school. But it also forces him to start to think about why he likes Riko in the first place. Yes, some of it is probably offended pride, at least at first, but there's more to it than that, something he's just beginning to realize by the end of this volume.
For her part, Riko is more looking for stability in her life, something that appears to have been missing for a very long time. A piece of Kai recognizes this, but he also seems to understand that he can't just rush in and become her prince charming. The guy Riko likes has been there for her since Kai was chasing her with a stick, and even if he isn't interested in her romantically, that's still a lot to overcome for Kai. Riko isn't interested in his brand of flirtation, and that's really what Kai is going to have to work on going forward.
This book gives every indication that he will…but it's going to be a long haul for him. Emotional intelligence doesn't appear to be his strong suit, but neither is it Riko's so that should keep things interesting. The title of the book implies that it's about the first springtime of at least Kai's life (with “springtime” being manga code for “youthful love”), and it may be for Riko as well, given how her crush started as him being the one person she could count on during a time of instability.
Although this is Shizuki Fujisawa's first English-language release, she's been writing shoujo manga for a while now, and it looks as if she has the storytelling chops and grasp of the genre to make this worth your while. Her art suffers a bit from some awkward bodies (mostly Kai's when drawn at an angle) and Riko's height is a bit inconsistent throughout the volume, but the characters are diverse and attractive, and the pages read well. This volume ends with the kind of romantic cliffhanger shoujo thrives on, so if you're looking for a new romance to delve into, give this one a chance.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Interesting story and characters, attractive visuals
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